Saturday, July 31, 2010

Making Saints and Pulling Bishops Weed

I ventured away from home only twice today: to the Pleasant Ave. compost site and the Merriam Park Library. I worked in the rough-and-tumble yard 'til late afternoon. (Don't ask me to get up or anything because I'm sore and stiff and planted in this leather chair right now.) I could only tackle a few large areas today: the rusted Snow-on-Mountain or Variegated Bishops Weed all along the line of the picket fence and the rock steps leading up to the back yard. While I was at it, I pulled out some nasty crab grass and Creeping Charlie and even leaned over the picket fence to chop down the purple aster, which I had hoped to cut earlier to stop its legginess; two pickets were quite rotted from age and their tops busted off on my lean. Anyway, I cut and pulled and filled two big leaf bags with the green refuse and so Tim and I headed over to the compost site together to dump them. I still have the inside of the fence to clean up, which is now so completely overrun by that Bishops Weed that I'll be pulling those deep roots out much of tomorrow. Most gardeners will tell you to say no, just say no, to any offer of a gift of Bishops Weed. Too invasive! No matter if its free--that plant has been crowding gardeners for centuries.

I found "The Herbal” by John Gerard, who made this comment about the also-named Gout Weed in 1633:
“…..Herbe Gerard groweth of it selfe in gardens without setting or sowing, and is so fruitful in his increase, that where it once hath taken root, it will be hardly got out againe, spoiling and getting every year more ground, to the annoying of better herbs."

I returned my two rented DVDs at the library. Of course they were overdue, putting them at the same price as the Red Box movies at McDonald's on W. 7th. Still, at least this time I watched them both. Sometimes I rent library movies, keep them too long, and then return them late without ever having watched them. One of our authors at the Press recently told us she no longer uses her library anymore. She loves libraries, sure, but with all the late fees she pays, she can't afford them anymore.

Last night I stayed up past midnight watching the terrific French film Séraphine, based on the life of French painter Séraphine de Senlis--"a beautiful portrait of an artistic mind." Forget Bravo's Work of Art, this movie was a work of art. From a user review on the IMDb site:

Seraphine recalls other outstanding understated French films like La Dentelliere and Brodeuses, films in which female acting transcends subject matter. If Marion Cotillard was born to play Piaf then Moreau was born to play Seraphine, the beautiful innocent, condemned to a life of harsh servitude yet never wavers from her simple faith and sings to the virgin on a daily basis. Completely untrained she uses what little spare time she has to paint flowers and fruit with no thought of reward, a real definition of Art For Art's Sake. Because this is a true story about a real person her gift is, ultimately appreciated by the German art collector/critic who also 'discovered' Rousseau; for a mayfly moment she knows something akin to happiness/contentment before spending her last years in an asylum. The film scores on all levels, not least the visuals in which almost every set up whether indoors or out, reeks of paintings we can all but name but ultimately remain elusive. In the leading role Yolande Moreauis beyond praise.
In the movie, Seraphine cleans houses--often barefoot--all day, walks miles to and from her home, her employ, church, and the fields, and paints on her hands and knees, her humble supplies and wood panels spread flat on the floor. Yet, despite all this hardship, her physical life beckoned, entwined with art and nature in such a way that a day in front the computer seems so much like penance. So I didn't really mind all that Bishops Weed. It got me to dig my nails into the ground.

Speaking of art and faith, I just learned about a talented typesetter and book packager I worked with years ago who has a practice of making Saints, by hand, in cast stone and pewter. He writes in the Artist's Statement on his website, In the Company of Saints:

Why Saints? My first contact with saints came when as a little Presbyterian kid I found a tiny plastic statue of St. Christopher, in a leather case, in a parking lot. I picked it up and put it in my pocket (thus unknowingly allying myself with St. Dismas, patron of thieves). I didn't know much, but I vaguely knew that I'd found a religious object. I felt comfort. No matter how humble the image, it seemed to me to intimate a binding of the spiritual and physical, something everyone longs for at some point in their life. Years past. I forgot my little St. Christopher until I studied European medieval literature and then taught it. Saints, of course, are a major theme. In the Canterbury Tales, for instance, saints, in a way, trot along with the pilgrims. I started to feel like those pilgrims. I started thinking of saints as spiritual aunts or uncles, figures who could give you advice and compassion without large doses of the doctrine you might get from parents. I ended up editing Catholic theological books for fifteen years, many of the books about or by saints. Finally, I wearied of words and started trying to carve my own images of saints. I had no training, no idea what I was doing. I just went into a garage and started trying to make statues of saints. ~Hank Schlau
Check out his work. You can order statues or medals online. There is St. Anthony, Finder of Lost Things; St. James, Patron of Walkers, Runners and Pilgrims; St. Jerome, Patron of Booklovers and Librarians; and many more. I think I'll go with Hildegard of Bingen, Patron of Gardeners, Musicians and Artists. Seems a perfect choice.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Night Vice (cheap)

No smoking, no nightclubs. Just Laurent Bros Kettle Korn, Trader Joe's Honey Moon Viognier, and the July Elle interviews with Drew Barrymore and Javier Bardem.

It's payday and I was finally able to book an appointment at the salon to fix the hot mess that new Aveda graduate left me with over a month ago. I knew when he gasped, like a woman in the dark during a horror movie, after rinsing my hair that he had blown it in the foil and color department. Then he said, "I'll be right back," and rushed over to get his instructor. A bit like that scene in As Good As It Gets when Cuba Gooding Jr and his assistant get a good look at Greg Kinnear after his mugging.

I stopped by the St. Luke's Farmers Market on the way home from work and got that great kettle corn, bok choy, Yukon Golds, four new tomatoes, and some white and red onions. Then I washed the dishes and watched the Twins with Tim, who was multi-tasking--watching music videos with earplugs on the laptop, catching some plays of the game, and nodding to me every once in awhile (when he saw my lips move, I suppose). "Can you believe Casilla got a home run?" I say. He looks up, looks over, nods, and looks down.

In that interview with Drew Barrymore in the new Elle, which I read at the salon, she says something that I will cop for my new line when asked about how I sleep: "I have the ears of a new puppy." Lately I too have jumped and startled awake at the sound of every creak and pop. I've started to sleep with a fan just for the white noise. Sounds like a fussy stage to be in but I can't seem to help it. We leave next weekend to attend the VFW state tourney in Austin, Minnesota, where we'll share the Holiday Inn with dozens of high school boys and their families. Whoa, boy, I'll have to bring my ear plugs, turbo fan, and a couple bottles of that Honey Moon.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

36 Hours with the Teens

So last night I walked into the living room and the two teens are in chairs, three feet from the TV, playing the video games they had just purchased from GameStop, where they traded in their expensive Christmas and birthday gift games for used ones. Not a great deal to me but whatever. I remember as a teen blowing all my waitress tips on clothes I would discard after one school year, so marked by that year's fashion that I'd be dated in the eyes of others if I had carried them through another year.  A Hoodie and jeans with elephant bells, one year, set me back more than any other one outfit until my twenties.

At any rate, I walked into the living room where the boys were side by side, controls in hand, like a pair strapped into a roller coaster, and they put the game on mute. I looked over at the screen and saw it was another war game. Then they paused it. And waited. I wanted to drawn down the blinds in each of the three windows and they just waited. And watched me as I went over to the windows, one by one. Then waited. As I left the room the action came back on. Then the sound, beginning with some animated soldier saying, "Fuck you."

Remember when we muted the set because our nighttime drama might be too rough for the children's innocent ears?

Tim knows I hate the war games. Sometimes he tries to discuss the merits of the games, such as interactive maps that lets him discover the Middle East, or role-playing games that include decisions of ethics or humane efforts. I listen, because I know it is important to him--these games, the whole range of them--but I don't buy it. His friend had purchased a skateboarding game and Tim had also traded for a mysticism game so I'm hoping they will mix up this assault on their brains today.

His friend is spending the weekend with us while his parents are out in Bayfield with friends. Ken's up on the Gunflint so I'm host. The two sixteen-year-olds have been friends for years so it's a welcome change for me.

Last night I kicked them out, though, so I could have some quiet and also some time to clean the house. I only got about a third of the way on the cleaning. I forget how much work it is to clean. Up and down the stairs, I spent half my time putting things in order, divvying up people's belongings and restoring back to their respective places.

Dinner last night was marinated sirloin on the grill, sliced and served with a mayo-Dijon sauce (which no one else ate but me), fried Yukon Golds, salad, and the New French baguette that you bake in your own oven, always a hit with teen boys.

I cleaned up the spare room for Adam, an act I've always loved doing for others. I suppose I love it because people have done it so nicely for me: fresh sheets, plumped pillows, the best quilt in the house, a set of towels placed on bed's edge, night lamp left on as welcome.

This morning Tim had to leave early for his baseball game and he popped into Adam's room to tell him he was leaving. I had been awake for awhile with tea and the NYT. Adam got up soon after that--and our house was very quiet. He didn't seem too uncomfortable and when I asked him if he wanted breakfast he quickly said yes. While we ate we shared some stories. He talked about his grandparents, whom I had seen over the Fourth, and how his grandma had called wondering his sister's shoe size. His sister is in college and away for the summer, working. So Adam told his grandma he'd call her back and then went into his sister's closet and checked out the sizes of all the pairs of shoes in there, hoping to come back with an average, which was size 8, he determined. With so much eye aversion and mumbling going on among the teens of the world, I so appreciated this effort at table conversation.

Adam's gone home for some down time while I head over to Tim's game. Tonight the three of us are making homemade pasta. Adam knows how to make Alfredo sauce from scratch (he brought his shaker/strainer and the recipe) and Tim learned how to make egg noodles while on a retreat at school. We'll head to Cossetta's for some semolina flour and Italian sausage.

Food, the great mediator.

Monday, July 05, 2010

What we're up to

What we're doing
I'm upstairs in bed, no TV, checking e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, daily newspapers. Guys are downstairs fighting over remote control. Back from a long weekend away together near Finlayson--a quick last-minute change in our 4th of July plans that really turned out fun. Adam is spending the night because our friend, his dad, just got diagnosed with Lyme's Disease, literally ten minutes ago. He didn't feel well much of the weekend (though was a trooper about it) and the long, stormy ride home did him in. Got in to urgent care just in time. If you've been out in the woods, check yourself for ticks, please.

What we're eating
Lots of great meals outside and around the kitchen table. Watermelon, chilled linguine salad, slow-grilled barbecue ribs, fresh strawberries, homemade carrot cake, kielbasa with fried potatoes, hazelnut/chocolate rochers. Maybe should feast on salads and lighter fare this week!

What we're wearing
It was such a hot, muggy weekend that we've all had showers and are wearing tee-shirts and jammy pants, the house air-conditioning feeling like a spa hotel.

What we're reading
I started Sam Lipsyte's The Ask. Tim is re-reading Anne Ursu's first novel. Our friend Rhonda started Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna (?) and hates it.

What we're buying
Smoke balls (fireworks) at the shop in Finlayson, Leinenkugel's variety pack, a very beautiful, stark, handmade wooden chair ($25) from the antique store in Griese; also, a country red cake tin with carrying handle (2.50), and Graham Greene's The Quiet American (50 cents). Coca Cola (me), Starburst popsicles (the boys) for the ride home.

What we're playing
This weekend, bocce ball, wiffle ball, four-wheeling on Dick's 80 acres.

What we're hoping
That it will stop raining, cool off, and hurry up and be another weekend.